Sep 102010
 

Eyes on the field is the guiding principle here at NationalsProspects.com. Unfortunately, more often than not, those eyes are mine but I’m now fortunate to have a couple of folks in Hagerstown to act in my stead. Shawn, who writes quite prolifically for his own blog Musings about Sports and other important items has written for us before, most recently surveying the landscape in the first half. TBRfan, a commenter from the late, great NFA, offers her take on the prospects she’s seen in the 60-plus games a season-ticket holder plus nine more as a groupie roadtripping fan (kind of like how yours truly has gone to every road stop in the Carolina League). So the two might not agree, but together they give us a better sense of what’s to come. TBRfan is in regular type for the position players; Shawn is in red to follow her remarks; the pitcher’s commentary is all Shawn.

POSITION PLAYERS

Justin Bloxom
Was having a great year at first… smooth fielding both ways, consistent play most all the time… but a total shame that he got hurt and had season-ending surgery.  He was having a great year at the plate and could seeming hit to all fields.  One big month and pedestrian otherwise,Will be 23 early next season and I don’t think he has the power to stay at first long term. If he doesn’t start ’11 at Potomac that shows what the Nats think of his prospect status. Just cannot get past how much he reminds me of former prospect Bill Rhinehart.

Justino Cuevas
Hmmm….he played all sorts of positions after the Souza suspension. I think third base was a better position for him than SS. His first game at 3rd he had some monster plays that saved innings and runs. Could be an interesting player, but I just don’t see the “wow” factor in him like I saw in some 2009 Suns infielders. Finished the season stronger than expected,but I don’t see him as more than an organizational soldier. Doesn’t have the bat for third base or the quickness for SS. Reminds me of less-refined version former Sun Michael Martinez. Those guys find employment in the minors,but aren’t true prospects.

Rick Hague
Has a good bat and could hit for power. Fielding was reasonable, but was becoming error-prone late in the season. In my eyes, he’s surely better than Souza on that side of the infield, but not better than Soriano early in the season. We’ll definitely see him back at the Suns next year. I find his hitting the most intriguing thing of all. Could have nice size to play first base or even third. Hague hit the ball well and with power as well. The fielding—mainly the arm accuracy—is somewhat troubling, but I would like to see him over a full season at SS before giving up on him there, Third base might be a better future fit, but considering that Ryan Zimmerman is a long-term block, Washington will give Hague every chance to prove he can play short. Might be my favorite overall Suns prospect this season.

Stephen King
He came back to the Suns after a suspension and some time in the GCL and Vermont. He went right to 3rd base to replace Souza after a one-game stint by Cuevas. I don’t think 3rd is the spot for him, but I can’t really figure out what base I’d like to see him at, or even in the outfield. Not impressed that much with his bat. He’s a real question in my book – I just don’t see how or where he fits in. Have to agree here for the most part. Rust likely played a part in poor numbers, but should have never been to that point. I would like to see King worked out at second,but his prospect status has faded quickly.

Jeff Kobernus
Here’s another “that’s a shame” player right up there with Bloxom. Was steady and smooth at 2nd. I was also liking his batting style and all-around hustle. I hope we get him back to the Suns, I think he’s going to be a player to watch.  I wrote about Kobernus early in the year about a feeling that he was going to be a guy that always struggled with injuries and for 2010, I was dead on. The skills are there,but will the health ever be there? I think he returns to Hagerstown for at bats and moves to Potomac quickly.

Brett Newsome
One of the steadiest players for the suns this year. He had all sorts of “crap” tossed his way from the far side of the infield and he scooped most of them. He has good size but with a little more bulk could really be a good hitter. An undrafted player – and is getting a little old for low-A. Organizational soldier. Think Tim Pahuta with far less power.

J.P. Ramirez
One of my favorite players for the Suns this year – steady fielder, steady hitter just under .300 for the year. Hit for power, but a little slow on the bases with only 3 stolen. I think that might be a product of coaching, not potential. I know watching the Suns this year, I never got that “uh-oh” feeling when a
ball was hit out there to LF. Ramirez has the bat and catches what is hit to him, but has little range and lacks speed. One “plus” tool is power and that can carry a player a long way, but I still think the glove makes a difference over the long haul. In MLB,there is no hiding a less-than-average mitt and he still makes you think of him being an AL player or worse yet: The dreaded “4A” player. I like Ramirez,but there are concerns.

Mills Rogers
Part of the carousel of shortstops this year. He came to us late in the season and performed admirably. Fielding was steady, though most of his errors where of the type  that, if he took his time, would have made the play. I don’t feel I saw enough batting to get a real feel for any type of power hitting to his game, outside of the home run he hit in Charleston – a mighty fine shot. I think bulking up a few pounds in the weight room would be a real boon to his game. Small sample size, but I liked him in limited time. Need more looks, but should be a starter somewhere for the 2011 Suns.

Adrian Sanchez
He’s listed at SS, but played a lot at 2nd. Very young player just turning 21 – and he looks like he’s 15! He’s fast, he’s a good batter. Send him back to Hagerstown so I can see a full year of him – I’m interested in seeing more as I think he’s got some potential. Liked his contact skills and is pretty fast on the bases (for a guy that didn’t steal a base). I agree, we need more data, but interesting player to keep an eye on.

Stephen Souza
Season tainted by the 50-game suspension. Watching him early season I can tell you after parts of 3 seasons at the low-A level, something has to give. I don’t think he’s a third baseman at all. Makes the hard plays easy, the easy plays hard. Inaccurate throws to first – many souvenirs got into the stands. I think a new team and a new position are needed, or his career is over. Also, needs to check his temper and attitude at the door. Word behind the scenes is that Souza is through and going to college. Might be what is best for all as Souza never seemed to like what he was doing.

Adrian Nieto
Got little-to-no playing time behind Sandy Leon at catcher, which I think, was not the way it was designed at the start of the year. When Adrian got in at the end of the season, he did an okay job. Just more playing time is needed for him. Not the fastest runner, not the best stick. Let him catch the entire year at Hagerstown in 2011 and we’ll see what we have then. Nieto didn’t get the playing time needed and that was a surprise to me as well. Defensively, I thought he was better than advertised, but the stick didnt play. I would bet he bounces back next season and if not,he just isn’t what he was supposed to be.

Sandy Leon
I think he was a surprise to everyone this year. Did an admirable job behind the plate, even when middle relief had him diving all over back there. The bat came around for him this year, and had a .249 average – which I think could be lots better with hitting instruction. He’s the right build for a catcher, but is definitely slower on the bases. He’ll go to Potomac next year and probably platoon. Sandy Leon is a solid minor-league, A-ball catcher. Nothing wrong with that, but not a prospect, either. The bat is not going to play up the ladder and has solid defensive skills that aren’t elite. Works well with young pitchers, which will keep him employed, but not a guy to watch, either. A long-term organizational soldier (e.g. Devin Ivany).

Eury Perez
Eury was an absolute mystery to me this year. Gave me that “uh-oh” feeling playing center field. I was never really sure if he’d catch the ball or not. Arm I think is average – we’ve had a few other players come through Hagerstown that have had better outfield arms than him. Now on the bases? He’s a regular thief! He doesn’t hit for power, and I liken him to a softball slap hitter. He can bunt, too. Put this all together? He’s an interesting prospect – one that won’t fall off the radar for a while. But I
think there are better fielding CFs out there in our system right now, but not any better when at bat or on the bases. Get ready for that haters… I dont get Eury Perez’s hype. He is fast and will steal bases. That’s it. Contact hitter in the SAL, but his swing screams higher strikeouts as he rises against better pitching. Defensively, he ranges from below-average to terrible. I cannot remember a player here that has been worse in judging flyballs and the arm is nothing to rave about. I am not saying rule Perez out, but I don’t see the ceiling that others seem to.

Right fielders
Destin Hood, et. al. We had such a rotisserie of players here this season, the entire position played weak. Marcus Jones played there for some of the season and got called up. That left RF up to a platoon of players, none of which impressed me enough at all. Destin, I will say, was hot with the bat the first half. After that, he couldn’t hit anything off speed. It was painful to watch him bat at times.  Hood does struggle with breaking stuff and his hesitant late-season attempts at the left field hill at the Muni were pretty laughable, but my main concerns were just five homers over a full season. I expected more power from Hood and I bet the Nats did as well. Hood might be back to start the season, but a fast first month should see him in Potomac… Marcus Jones is just a organization guy, though he did show improvement in his second stint in Hagerstown.

PITCHERS

Paul Applebee – LHP
Applebee split time between the rotation and the pen and strikes me as a non-prospect. I can see his fringy stuff playing as high as AA,but as nothing more than a long reliever. Applebee does throw strikes and being a lefty might help him stay in the game for a few more years than a similar righty, but lack of stuff sends him off the radar.

Mitchell Clegg – LHP
Clegg’s numbers look nice, but they should have as a 23-year-old that turns 24 in December and spending the entire year in the SAL. For a big (6’5″) pitcher, he doesn’t throw all that hard and, as a result, misses very few bats (55 K’s in 93 IP). Clegg’s stats would look even better if not for three awful starts to conclude the season—14 earned runs over 14⅓⃯ innings, but the age concerns me and the late-season swoon makes me wonder even further. The big question is this: If Clegg is thought of as a prospect, why wasn’t he promoted to Potomac for their playoff drive?

Paul Demny – RHP
Demny has the stuff to succeed, but he is frustrating to scout as he seems to show up on occasion and toss a game that makes you think he is a diamond in the rough, but more often than not you get a guy that looks to be on his way from the game. Demny struggles with control more than you think from a guy with 47 walks as he gets behind in counts and forced to make a good pitch that gets hammered. He has a nice arm, but might be a better long-term fit in the bullpen. I wouldn’t give up on him,but wouldn’t bet on him either.

Shane Erb – RHP
UGH. If Erb is still in the organization for 2011,I have questions about the evaluations of talent. Hittable with less-than-sharp control… I cannot think of one reason to recommend Erb to be employed in 2011.

Luis Garcia – RHP
Garcia was dominant in his first month after being demoted from Potomac, but quickly reverted to form and settled in as a less-than-reliable reliever. Garcia throws fairly hard, but to me his fastball lacks movement and his offspeed stuff not only lacks bite, it also lacks location as well; a non-prospect.

Ben Graham – RHP
Graham looked good in the appearances that I saw him in,but look at his splits between the Muni and road games… looks like two different guys. Dominant at home, if you didn’t look at the numbers, I would have given an even higher grade. Graham showed me enough to keep an eye on and should be at Potomac next season.

Graham Hicks – LHP
When I saw the lanky Hicks, he seemed to cruise through a lineup first time through and then get ripped thereafter. Hicks needs to fill out physically and that could happen (just 20) and he does strike out batters, but relies too much on a fastball that really isn’t a plus pitch. Intriguing, but I’d like to see him next year before rendering a verdict on his prospect status.

Shane McCatty – RHP
I didn’t see McCatty much, but I did like that he seemed to have a feel for pitching (makes sense, considering his father) and saw his only home start and was impressed.
Keeps the ball down and more than a soft tosser,McCatty should be the top starter for the Suns starting next year.

Kyle Morrison- RHP
Morrison’s arm belies his numbers as he throws in the mid 90′s and showed dominant SAL stuff at times. Those times were rare though and his fastball is pretty straight.
Chris Michalak is a reasonably inexperienced pitching coach, I would like to see how Morrison might do with a more experienced coach to work on developing not only a side pitch, but better movement/location with the burner.

Josh Smoker – LHP
A late-season move to the ‘pen gave Smoker a chance at rehabbing prospect-level status as he allowed just two runs in August with batters hitting under .200 against him. Smoker showed the power arm that had been missing as a starter and was fanning batters at a high rate. If anyone wants to see him as a starter again,I would have severe questions about them. To me, Smoker starts next season as the closer in Potomac and has revived a career that looked to be in trouble at the mid-season point.

Wanel Vasquez -R HP
See Shane Erb.

Dean Weaver – RHP
Solid enough stats, but doesn’t throw overwhelmingly hard and seems to be a a journeyman type that will stick around for a while and rise through the system, but barring a change somewhere doesn’t strike me as a big-leaguer. Looks to be somewhat of an overdraft and despite solid numbers, I was disappointed by the righthander.

Rob Wort – RHP
Wort doesnt have big-time stuff, but just gets guys out. Sometimes you have to look through tools and look at what “is.” Wort gets batters out and strikes out over a batter an inning to boot. Will that play at higher levels? Not sure, but definitely worth keeping tabs on.

  5 Responses to “Hagerstown Season Review”

  1. My opinions on the guys mentioned in this outstanding piece. Stuff like this provides me with a link and evidence that I can used to defend (and rarely attack) prospects in other sites that I wander into for outside the organization perspectives on prospects. I saw some of them during my one trip to Hagerstown. Not that you can get but so much on them, but my impression of Ramirez improved as a hitter and most of the other guys remained the same. That led me to increase my support for the rising Eury Perez bandwagon at Federal Baseball. I’m only going to comment on guys I disagree with or have different expectations for than *both* commenters due to either my gut or my projections of the statistics, box scores, and rare radio broadcasts I’ve listened to this year.

    Bloxom) So sad. Was going to be my pick for organizatonal hitter of the year before injury. Even ran a poll on him to help expose people to his success. At least he’s credible for Potomac next year.

    Hague) Hague’s a college guy so it will be interesting to see what they do with him. Nobody’s blocking him at Potomac right? Given his age and our needs, I feel he should be given every effort to succeed at short in a full season for Potomac next year after working on his defense at third. If this wasn’t the Nats, I think you’d just move him to an easier position on the diamond. If you guys genuinely like what you see out of him, his eventual role may be trade bait (a revolutionary new concept for the Nats!) given the fact that we have at least three middle infielders potentially blocking him.

    Kobernus) Hope you’re right. I think we’ll get a lot of differing opinions on him from outside of the org. With additions of talent, I think I’d have him outside of my top 20 based on the injury risk and the infusion of talent in the system because guys like Hague have already passed him in my book. For a college guy, that’s troubling and greatly weakens the 2009 overall draft grade.

    Ramirez) Spot on. I think he’s still a C+ guy with the potential to go either way. Still, nice to see him progress with the bat, and I think the high schooler spent fewer at bats at DH? Especially in the second half of the year?

    Sanchez) He’s an international player who has seemingly come from nowhere. The question is has he passed Kobernus? Because that’s likely to affect where he is on the diamond next year.

    Perez) I’m in the Perez camp, probably because I haven’t seen him play much! For his age, I think he’s ahead of the curve. He also addressed some of my contact concerns with his late season surge. At the plate, it’s very intriguing that they’ve put a guy with that much speed who probably needs as many at bats as possible in the 8 hole consistently. That says a lot about how far the organization wants to project him yet. He seems to get bunting, sacrificing, and getting on base ugly in ways that Nyjer Morgan does not grasp. Can he walk? That’s a question. Can he improve as a fielder? That’s a question. Will the contact hold? That’s a question. My assessment is that given his age he still has the potential to increase two of those tools. I also believe he deserves to start at Potomac next year. Hopefully, I’ll get a better sense of his defensive and “small ball” tools with a five game sample size in person. Thankfully, it’s easier for me to do my qualitative assessment for position players who have more opportunities too show their skills and guys whose skills seem to translate more easily to boxscores. I’ll be extremely interested to see how non-Nats people go with him, and I will probably lean more to their assessments for him than I do for other prospects.

    Hood) Done enough for me to start at Potomac, especially given the lack of reliable outfield talent there. If Rhinehart’s playing RF there right now, you can give Hood a whirl in Potomac based on what he’s done so far. He’s at least answered the contact question for me at this level, although in inconsistent fashion. Before his late season surge I was in the repeat Hagerstown for awhile camp. He’s improved on the contact question. Needs to show more on the right field defense question. Needs to improve on power, but I believe that’s going to improve over time or be counterbalanced by answers to the other questions. Like our last raw high schooler prospects of interest for me, Michael Burgess and Chris Marrero, I think our general move is two years at Potomac with these kind of guys rather than herding them in Hagerstown. That’s got to be real frustrating for Hagerstown fans who buy season tickets and watch second half collapses like they had this year.

    Other guys of interest) Oduber for a quick read? All the box score readers were drooling over Oduber. He didn’t hit a lick in his Hagerstown in ridiculously low sample size, but I’d like to know if people saw an approach in his at bats, tools, or outfield defense. Higley? Assume he’s fallen off the map but he has an outside chance of doing something if the plus defense reports are true. The Jeff Francoeur of our minor league system perhaps? Michael Taylor. This is the guy that I’m most interested in. A relatively high draft pick as a high schooler, interesting to me that he spent some time at Hagerstown at the end rather than not being sent down to Florida for a jump start on the instructional league.

    McCatty) If he’s the ace heaven help us all. They’ve got to have somebody from Vermont or from the GCL to take over that title by the quarter pole, right? If not and he’s actually a real prospect instead of a favor guy, he’s moving towards being the pitching equivalent of Mike Piazza in our org. Not for greatness, but contribution from a low round guy picked largely because of his last name for whatever reason.

    Morrison) More interesting for your concerns about pitching coach than anything else. This issue of our skill in developing pitching prospects is a real question of interest. I’ve got to believe that it affects our ability to develop prospects positively or negatively and we just pumped a truck of money into two high school prospects who are going to need to learn at Hagerstown.

    Smoker) Bounce back was astounding to me. Any value up to AA is a bonus for me after his atrocious start. The Balester of the lower levels?

    Basically the pitchers confirm what I’ve thought: Pitching could be a challenge for both Potomac and Hagerstown next year, but more position player talent may be on the way. Would be nice to see them make some nice moves over the offseason to add young organizational depth or genuine talent at Hagerstown and Potomac so that more players could get the higher leverage playoff time that I think will genuinely help the development of our Harrisburg and Potomac prospects.

  2. My take on Oduber – Justin Maxwell clone. He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in Hagerstown for the 5 or so games he was here. I can imagine just adjusting to the routine here can toss anyone for a loop. I am actually excited for Hagerstown to have him next year and I hope he doesn’t start in Vermont.

    Smoker -was smoke out of the bullpen. Looked and threw more confidently and seemed to have some kind of inspiration about him; actually saw him smile a fair amount. Speed and location seemed to get better too as his confidence started to rise. His career was ready to flame out as a starter.

    FWIW, I just can’t get on the Eury bandwagon. Nothing i’ve seen convinces me (outside of that speed on the bases) that he’s going to patrol anything but minor league fields for a while.

    I am leary about what’s to happen in Hagerstown next year – new GM, new owners, (from what i’ve heard) two new coaches. Maybe it will be a change for the better?

  3. @TBR
    Thanks for the followup, especially on Oduber.

    One of the fans I went to at the game said that he wasn’t happy with LeCroy. Wonder if LeCroy isn’t highly thought of anymore or is some kind of Bowden leftover not given but so much rope by the new regime. Regardless, it will be a very, very high profile job with Harper and the other high schoolers coming through. That may attract better candidates and demand higher performance from the org.

    Eury will continued to be debated. I’m leaning towards fan, but games in Potomac (and Sue’s reports) will help affect my perspective. Trust Sue’s scouting a bunch.

  4. Nice point-counterpoint work from Shawn & TBRfan on Hagerstown. As an admitted boxscore / stat junkie, I’m grateful for the opinions of folks who see multiple games for other teams in the system.
    My thanks to each of you, and also to Sue_Dinem for giving you the forum.

  5. Great stuff from everybody. While I’ve already mentioned why I couldn’t make very many games this year, next year will be different story. I think Sanchez is worth a trip to Hagerstown all by himself.

    Re: Perez — He’s certainly going to start in Potomac next year and maybe will shake out the HUGE difference of opinion on him. He’s still very young and his numbers are off the charts.

    The story next year wil be the outfield. Oduber and Hood will be back and you have to figure Harper starts the year there. Could be quite a show.

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